SAN FRANCISCO — Vera Farmiga never comes right out and says she believes in ghosts.
But it's obvious she takes the role she plays in “The Conjuring” very seriously, and she has the utmost respect and affection for the 86-year-old woman sitting next to her during recent round-table interviews with reporters, hosted by New Line Cinema at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
The older woman is world-famous paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren, whom Farmiga portrays in the film they're here to promote.
“What I loved about this is this fascinating woman here to my right, and embodying her,” the actress said. “And that was just a treat for me. When we met for the first time, I was so excited. I had done a lot of research prior. There's a lot of information through the decades. There's so much footage, and the obvious questions are all answered time and time again. And I think, really, to me, I didn't see it as a horror story, I saw it as a love story.”
“The Conjuring,” directed by James Wan (“Saw,” “Insidious”) from a script by Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes, is based on true events in the lives of married paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, focusing on a 1970 case in which they were called upon to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse.
Patrick Wilson (“Insidious”) plays Ed, a noted demonologist, author and lecturer who passed away in 2006. The residents of the house are Roger and Carolyn Perron (played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their five daughters.
Lorraine was — and still is — a professed clairvoyant and light-trance medium who worked closely with her husband for decades.
“I remember first going to that home in Rhode Island, and when you walked in that house, just walked in, you felt the vibrations,” Lorraine Warren said. “And when you looked at those children, oh, it was terrible. That was terrible to look at those children. And they'd hold on to me. You know, hold on to my skirt, hold on to me in some way.”
What follows in the weeks and months is an ever-escalating and often brutal battle royale between the Warrens and the Perrons and a profoundly evil demonic spirit that's fighting to possess one of the family members while threatening the lives of everyone else involved.
Many of the shocks and horrors in “The Conjuring” have inspired comparisons to William Friedkin's 1973 classic, “The Exorcist.”
“We know the genre,” Farmiga said. “But, what draws me to it is this story of compassion and empathy and concern for others, and knowing when we need help and when we need to give help. And I think what I marvel at is how she uses her God-given gift, how she puts herself in the line of fire, and helps people achieve peace of mind, peace of spirit, when hers isn't always at peace.
“And then there's all these beautiful videos on YouTube,” she said. “And the union was ordained between her and Ed. It was a match made in heaven. You can see that from their rapport with each other. It is so rare to have a coupling and love decade after decade that is so full of honor and respect, and you look at each other in the eyes, you laugh at each other's jokes, you listen to each other and it's such a beautiful love.”
‘Want you to love her'
The New Jersey-born actress with the soulful, pale-blue eyes, tawny blond hair and delicate features, now 39, has appeared in dozens of features and TV productions since her career began in 1997, perhaps most notably opposite George Clooney in 2009's “Up in the Air,” which brought her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.